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Use source gap analysis to find out the best source of information for your employees

01 Jun, 2020 Internal communication, PR measurement

One of the contentious debates in the communication profession in recent years has been about the preferred source of information for employees. On one side of the debate is the view by professionals like TJ Larkin that supervisors and managers are the preferred source of most employee information. On the other side is the view that employees want different information from different sources. You can use communication source gap analysis to find out the best source of information for your employees.

It’s common sense – ask employees about their preferred sources of information

One way to find out what your employees want is simply to survey them on their preferred sources of information on selected important topics compared against the actual range of sources to identify where any gaps lie. This survey is an essential part of communication source gap analysis.

Typical questions to ask the respondents would be:

  1. “What is your main current source of information on that topic?”
  2. “What is your preferred main source on that topic?”
  3. “What is your preferred communication channel to receive this contact?”
  4. “How often would you like to receive this communication?”

For simplicity, the sources of information could be numbered as follows for each item of selected information:

  1. = CEO
  2. = My Divisional General Manager
  3. = My supervisor/manager who directly supervises me
  4. = My manager (where the manager does not directly supervise me).
  5. = Hard copy newsletter
  6. = Email newsletter
  7. = Intranet

A follow-up survey should be conducted to check that any communication activity initiated after the survey has resulted in a smaller gap between the main source of information on a topic and the preferred main source of information.

This topic is also discussed in my article, “How to measure your communication gaps.”

Gap analysis can be conducted on a wider basis

A Forbes article in 2021 discusses how gap analysis can also be conducted on a broader basis in business, which can be relevant to comms heads who are a member of an executive committee:

A “gap” in your business means that you aren’t doing something well or aren’t doing it at all. A gap analysis helps identify these gaps so that you can develop a strategy to fill the voids and improve your business operations. In other words, the gap analysis takes stock of where you are now, notes where you want to be and develops a plan of attack.

The four steps of a gap analysis

When conducting a gap analysis, you can use a simple four-step process for action items that will help you reduce or eliminate your gaps. Every organization will have different things that they focus on in a gap analysis. In fact, you can have different metrics used for different departments when conducting your own gap analysis. Briefly, the four steps of a gap analysis are:

  • Identify the current situation. Define what is important for you in your department or organization. A communication team might be focused on productivity, a sales team might be focused on lead generation and conversion rates while the accounting department may be focused on efficiency and accuracy. The metrics that you use will be what is most important to the success of your business or department.
  • Set SMART objectives for where you want to end up. SMART objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive. Being specific narrows down exactly what you want to achieve and removes any ambiguity. You want tasks to be measurable so that you can see the growth towards the objective. While objectives should be aspirational, they need to be achievable, otherwise you may see a lack of motivation and frustration cutting into morale. Relevant objectives help you achieve the overall organizational objectives while being time-sensitive gives you a deadline to measure progress and evaluate success.
  • Analyze gaps from where you are to where you want to be. Now is the time to evaluate the gaps and get to the root of the problem. This involves getting to the details of why you aren’t as successful as you want to be. The why could be a hiring problem, a training problem, a resources problem or something else. This is where you dig in to discover it.
  • Establish a plan to close existing gaps. What needs to happen to get you to your objectives? Develop action items that help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

When you understand the broad principles of a gap analysis, you can contribute meaningfully in executive committee meetings, with your own comms, and with other business units. Helpful for your career!

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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